Open Thread

Open Thread Update: Happy Birthday, WWW.

Last time we noted the ‘birthday” of the Web (back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth), and asked for everyone’s ‘first time” experience with it.

Nowadays, of course, tech has expanded in such a way that connectivity is a vital element of modern life that everyone needs.  (Fortunately, Senior Planet offers the Aging Connected program to help lower income folks get online — learn more here — and tons of programming to help older people become more tech savvy.

Today we can join a Senior Planet for events like virtual fitness class, or be part of a book club, or be part of a virtual community….but in the early days it was much simpler. They say  ‘you never forget your first time, ” and these readers prove the point.

“I remember wondering what all I could use this strange object occupying a card table in my spare bedroom for! My immediate response was…recipes!”


For some, it was a dream machine…

“I began by pulling up yachts for sale anywhere USA. Window shopping and dreaming was my favorite subject.”

– Sue S.

…but for others it was a rocky start.  Try sending newsletter content halfway around the world back then!

“…I can still remember trying to sleep in in Milan, listening to the wretched wee-ahh of the dial-up modem while he tried again and again to get through. He ended up faxing it at the post office and they had to re-type it at the other end! This would have been about 1990.”


Of course, for people like reader Eric W, the internet at the library was a vital link during a series of natural, and unnatural disasters. Check his saga in the comments.

A few people were early adopters of computer technology sophisticated (for those days), like Richard A., who was familiar with CompuServe and The Source, and first saw the web at an internet industry show in 1993.  Or Malcom S., who remembers Prodigy in the early 90’s. Pam W. even used the granddaddy of the internet, Arpanet. Check their stories in the comments.

Others had more basic “first times” …

 “My very first online experience was to request a recipe for blueberry muffins.”

-Franci. W

I remember the first time I saw an animation on the internet. It was Charlie Chaplin doing his little dance.” 

– Mary Ellen

How about you? We’ll leave the comments open for a while for you to share your first time.  Meanwhile, for those who missed it, the original post is below.

Original Post

Did you know the World Wide Web just had a birthday?

The geneaology is a little confusing (since the World Wide Web is not the same as the Internet), but according to this report, the URL addressing capability of the internet came about on March 12, 1989. That same year, Quantum Computer Services launched its instant message service. In 1991 it became AOL.

World Wide Web for All!

In 1993, AOL began mailing everyone those CD’s that allowed everyone to go online. Remember this?

My late husband, Michael, was a programmer and an early adopter. He signed us up immediately. I still remember that first week. The first time we logged on, we spent hours looking at bulletin boards.  We finally found one board with every famous line from the Simpsons. We were up till 3am downloading every quote. It was such a fun night, full of discovery and excitement.

What about you? What was your very first online experience? Let us know in the comments!


Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send  Open Thread suggestions to


Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash


14 responses to “Open Thread Update: Happy Birthday, WWW.

  1. Our school system introduced willing employees to the internet, giving us a free dial up and weekly classes. At the very last class, we were introduced to the WWW — in color!
    I remember that 2 of the sites he shows us were a wine store in California and a virtual confession site – someone had created it as a joke – suggesting the use of it in place of the real thing.

  2. The first time I used the web for anything significant, was when my husband and I were planning a four and a half month trip in our small sailboat, down the Yukon River into the Bering Sea. Think about it. How else could you possibly find out where (and if) you could buy fuel, propane for heat cooking and food in remote locations? The results were sparse with no details. A lat/long and a yes/no – but were enough to allow us to learn that yes, we could buy those things and off we went.

  3. I remember marveling at the sound (you know that AOL sound) of connectivity to the world outside of my small log cabin in West Virginia.
    My twin daughters, who were three at the time, took to computers and the internet like ducks to water. I was so proud that I could give them the Fraggle game as an educational tool.

  4. I remember wondering what all I could use this strange object occupying a card table in my spare bedroom for! My immediate response was…recipes! And that’s for someone who doesn’t really like cooking all that much! I also remember being overwhelmed by everything one could access and constantly being on the lookout for web addresses. All these years later, I am still wrapped up in the internet and all the knowledge I can gain from it!

  5. When I was in my 30s my then partner produced weekly industry newsletters which were printed and mailed. We went overseas and he got the idea to write the copy while away and send it back to his office via the “internet”. I can still remember trying to sleep in in Milan, listening to the wretched wee-ahh of the dial-up modem while he tried again and again to get through. He ended up faxing it at the post office and they had to re-type it at the other end! This would have been about 1990.

  6. Not sure about the first use of the Web, but in spring of 1997, when my wife’s home town of Grand Forks, North Dakota, both flooded and caught fire, we were using computers at the library so much, to track the news and pass on information to her “snowbird” parents in Arizona, that’s when we decided to buy one for our home. A Gateway. What a difference it made, and that all of our computers and devices continue to make.

    1. Thanks for the story, Eric. “Flooded AND caught fire?” Wow. Almost sounds like the “Crisis Center” cartoon by Gary Larson. It’s an awful double whammy, but it really drives the point home that connectivity is a lifeline now. It’s not just for cat videos!.

  7. I first saw the World Wide Web in August 1993 at an internet industry show in San Francisco called Interop. O’Reilly, the technical book publishing company, was showing a prototype of an online publication on the Web they called the GLOBAL NETWORK NAVIGATOR. They used a beta version of Mosaic, the first Web browser, to show it.
    As someone who had previously been online on text-only services like CompuServe and The Source, I was impressed by the Web and immediately wanted to get on it.

  8. I was working for a nonprofit in Seattle in the mid-90s that was coordinating some research with the Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL). I’ll never forget a presentation we put on with a PNL speaker who gushed about the “Information Superway.” In that job, I exchanged documents with PNL using ARPANET, the Internet precursor!

  9. Prodigy was a family affair.
    “IBM & Sears spent over $1 billion to create Prodigy, a “home computer
    information service,” launched as a joint venture in the late 1980s.
    Prodigy offered subscribers access to a broad range of networked services
    including news, weather, games, stocks, and a variety of other features.”
    We used phone modems back then—for us the early 1990s. There was no Comcast, et al. So if you were online, you had no phone service.
    We got a 2nd phone line!

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